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WITU says Government should take the time to think creatively

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – “Why is it that every time the SXM Government finds itself in financial difficulties, that the first set of people to be affected are teachers and civil servants?” Claire Elshot – Aventurin, President of the Windward Islands Teachers Union (WITU) said on Monday in a press statement.

“How many times has WITU given you alternatives to touching our members’ monies?

“How can you touch the people’s pockets, yet not touch yours? Set the example! You want us to tighten our belts, then you tighten yours! Show your care for your essential workers by regulating their salaries, regulating food prices and doing whatever is necessary to make your Country people comfortable and happy to come to work.

How can you increase the workload of your most important people, people who kept the Country running during a pandemic, then – as a thank you - take food from their families’ mouths by reducing their vacation pay?

“The implications of civil servants and teachers not receiving these monies is that additional financial strain, on top of the workload, is placed on them.

“Do you think it’s right that we depend so much on a vacation allowance that is never used for actual vacation? Do you think it is correct to use that extra money to make sure our children are fed and clothed for the new school year? School fees and insurance are paid? Sadly, we depend so much on this extra income. But it’s a reality. And as a government, you are failing in showing your Country and its people that you really care about them.

“Your actions thus far continue to show a lack of empathy and love for your most important Country people. You refuse to set the example by cutting costs from your level, and refuse to make SXM a country we can be proud of.

“Instead, you continue to work illegally and slyly, putting worker against worker, and caring for no one but yourself. STOP IT!

“Listen to the unions when they tell you what you’re doing is illegal. Read the letters sent continuously to you that you do not read. Read and respond and see what they’re saying. Consider what they’re saying. STOP touching teachers’ and civil servants’ money. STOP it! Start being creative by finding other ways to generate money.

“SXM is a cash cow! There’s money there but you’re too scared to implement measures to collect. Why? Could it be because you have a hand in certain pots? Why must you always touch our monies and expect us to smile and make do? How can we? Have you taken any cuts? Have you tightened your belts? NO!

“The combined might of WICSU, NAPB, ABVO, and WITU unions sent a June 12 letter to Minister of General Affairs Silveria Jacobs stating 6 points. Most notable among these points was the reminder of the fact that Government has again failed to live up to its obligation to pay the remaining 3% to civil servants this year; that the Finance Minister, in a recent press conference failed to confirm that Govt will comply, instead talking about how Govt is operating on a month-by-month basis. Was this his way of telling us we should be grateful we’re getting our regular salaries?

“The letter also prompts them to remember that they like reminding the Netherlands of their legal and financial obligations to Country St. Maarten, and now we must remind you of your legal and financial obligations to your workers. The long and the short is that there is no legal basis for any of this! The law does not permit the government to withhold or postpone payments of the vacation allowance.

“Even school boards have noted the illegality of this act, and further stated that such a move can and will affect the quality and effectiveness of education here. Not to mention, this will also affect worker and teacher morale.

“IS that what you want? Why haven’t you taken our suggestions for further cost-cutting measures that don’t affect our members? Why isn’t there a significant decrease in the Ministers’ and parliamentarians’ allowances? In fact, according to the so-called draft budget, it just looks like you guys are shuffling around your so-called expenses and not truly cutting or reducing at your level.

“Take into account the type of precedent these actions are setting.

  1. The constant disregard and disconnection of any advice stemming from the C.C.S.U.
    2. The constant lack of respect for all civil servants.
    3. The constant ostracizing of teachers in civil servants matters
    4. The constant violation and overriding of laws
    5. The underlying disregard of position that blatantly put stakeholders in a position to operate in a compromising manner that affects their members unjustly.

“Take a page from New Zealand, whose Prime Minister announced 20% cuts to their Ministers and Parliaments salaries, and assuring essential workers (including teachers and civil servants) who kept the country running during lockdown that not a cent of their earnings will be touched. You might learn something there,” Claire Elshot – Aventurin
President of the WITU concludes.

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St. Maarten to receive 5th tranche of liquidity support

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - The Government of St. Maarten has learned via the media that the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations (BZK) of the Netherlands will be paying the much-needed NAf 39 million of liquidity support to St. Maarten as soon as possible. Government has taken note of a letter sent on June 17, by caretaker State Secretary Knops to the Chairlady of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament of his intentions to pay out the 5th tranche of liquidity support.

Though government has not received this decision via official channels, the letter stated that Sint Maarten had worked diligently to restore good governance and acted decisively enough to ensure the successful progress of the reconstruction project within recent weeks. A positive opinion of the Royal Schiphol Group (RSG) in relation to the steps taken by St. Maarten was also taken into consideration according to the letter.

Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs stated, “The government of St. Maarten looks forward to receiving the much-needed liquidity support which will be disbursed to St. Maarten. This will ensure the continuity of the St. Maarten Stimulus and Relief Plan (SSRP) payroll support in order for persons to still receive the subsidy to their salaries.”

Government remains with its stance that caretaker State Secretary with the support of the Kingdom Council of Ministers made improper use of the measure used to delay the much-needed funds as St. Maarten had met all the conditions for the 5th tranche. Nonetheless, this recent decision takes away the tension that would exist as persons were not able to receive their funds to meet their own obligations for the past two months.

In regard to the 2nd implementation agenda, the Monitoring Committee established to oversee the execution of the country reform package for St. Maarten has advised for the use of realistic deadlines as some ministries require additional support in the coordination and execution of the measures. It is important that the deadlines agreed to in the implementation agendas are realistic and feasible given government’s available resources. As such, the government of St. Maarten and the Temporary Working Organization (TWO) have agreed for the established deadlines to be adjusted and included in the 2nd implementation agenda which is scheduled to be executed from July until September 2021.

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St. Maarten Development Fund (SMDF) Commemorates its 9th Anniversary

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Taking a moment to acknowledge its efforts throughout 2020 and the first half of 2021, the St. Maarten Development Fund (SMDF), is celebrating nine fruitful and exciting years of existence. Along with this anniversary celebration, the organization is also launching its new look including a modern logo and revamped social media accounts and website.

The new look captures the organization’s commitment to cradling and nurturing a brighter St. Maarten, where its people can grow into their full potential through targeted social development initiatives. Though the official look may be changing, SMDF’s unwavering dedication remains at the heart of the organization’s work. With the continued support of its public and private sector partners, SMDF will continue its work to improve the lives of St. Maarten’s most vulnerable groups as it has always done.

While 2020 was a year of unexpected challenges, it was also a year of unexpected growth. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, SMDF pivoted its efforts to manage new programs without so much as a second thought. With the country’s economy devastated, wages plummeting and unemployment skyrocketing, SMDF managed the Income and Unemployment Support programs within St. Maarten Stimulus & Relief Plan (SSRP) on behalf of the Government of Sint Maarten. Since its inception, the program has provided financial relief for hundreds of persons struggling to survive and overcome the fallout of the pandemic.

Similarly, SMDF’s COVID response activities also had the organization serving as a Coordinator of the Collective Food Program, which supported 4,800 households by means of hot meals, food boxes, and e-vouchers. In the coming weeks, SMDF will continue to coordinate and provide food support to these persons collaboratively with its NGO partners.

Social development is a dynamic and ongoing process that requires constant assessment of the needs of the community and the ability to respond through creative initiatives that fill voids as they appear. Through its Workforce Development Program (W4D), SMDF created a free opportunity for learning for over 400 persons. Education has long been one of the key means of improving one’s income and quality of life. With so many unable to follow traditional learning programs, the initiative launched with e-learning platform Coursera, gave residents a chance to learn new skills and better equip themselves to reenter the workforce while at home during the less than active economic year.

In addition to its programmatic developments, the year 2020 was one of transition for the organization with the retirement of its first leadership. In December 2019, SMDF’s first Managing Director Keith Franca retired, passing the helm to Makhicia Brooks as of January 1, 2020. Similarly, in May 2020, incorporators Richelda Emmanuel-Rodriguez, Joy Arnell, and Marinka Gumbs all retired at the end of their two terms making way for new Supervisory Board Members Louisian Wathey, Zuleima Violenus-Salmon, and Claudette Labega-Forsythe who join Zylena Bary and Ahmed Bell.

Needless to say, without collaboration, SMDF can neither fund nor execute projects to the extent it does now. Thus, SMDF would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to all the organizations that have been along with us through this journey, including but not limited to: associated NGOs, donors and partners, the Government of Sint Maarten, Windward Islands Bank, the Ministry of BZK, NAGICO, and the Netherlands Red Cross.

As the organization goes through its tenth year, it will be doing so with the steadfastness and optimism necessary to development work. With St. Maarten and its people at the heart of its work, SMDF will continue to find innovative ways to fulfill its mission of Contributing to a Society that Cares.

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Curfew remains in place until June 28 but from 11.00PM to 5.00AM. 11 Persons Succumb to COVID-19

SAINT-MARTIN (MARIGOT) - The latest data from the Regional Health Agency Guadeloupe, Saint Barthélemy and Saint Martin, according to a Friday press release from the Prefecture shows a significant decrease in COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the week.

The positivity rate is 2.8% this week, up from 4.3% last week. The Hospital of Saint-Martin, whose staff has been particularly busy in recent weeks, also records a significant drop in visits and occupancy of the COVID-19 unit.

However, even if this trend has begun, the Prefect of Saint Barthélemy and Saint Martin calls for the utmost caution. 11 people died in less than a month from COVID-19. The situation therefore remains fragile, the Prefect points out.

For these reasons, the Prefect has decided to take the following measures: - the curfew is maintained in Saint-Martin. Any travel is prohibited between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. until Monday, June 28 at 5 a.m.; - restaurants and drinking establishments are allowed to reopen and welcome the public until 11 p.m., including hotel restaurants; - sporting, cultural and cultural events require a declaration and authorization from the Prefecture.

The Prefect recalls that vaccination remains the best way to protect against the COVID-19 epidemic and that Galisbay's vaccinodrome is open from Monday to Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. including for teenagers from 11 to 18 years old.

Nearly 28% of the population received a first injection, which is a favorable factor in the fight against the COVID-19 epidemic, but still insufficient to allow the return to normal life, the press statement for the Prefecture concludes.

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Intoxicated driver arrested after serious accident on Oyster Pond Road

SINT MAARTEN (OYSTER POND) - The dispatch center of the Police Force Sint Maarten KPSM was notified of a serious accident on Oyster Pond Road on Thursday, June 17, around 9:00pm. Several patrols and ambulance personnel were dispatched to the location close to Rice Hill Gardens.

The patrols found a badly damaged gray Suzuki Liana with French side licence plate 2554-AAB lying on its side. Further up the road was a blue color Hyundai Tucson (Dutch side plate P 1766) partially in the roadside ditch.

The preliminary investigation by KPSM’s Traffic Department found that the driver of the blue Tucson was coming from Sucker Garden towards Oyster Pond. At a point, he veered to his right and crashed into the Suzuki that was approaching from the opposite direction.

Both drivers suffered minor injuries and were treated at the scene by paramedics. While tending R.E.P., the driver of the Tucson, personnel observed that he was under the influence of alcohol. He was arrested on the scene by the patrol for driving while being under the influence of alcohol.

The driver remains in police custody pending further investigation. (KPSM) 

police grey car fri18

 

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DUST WARNING: THOSE SUSCEPTIBLE REMAIN CAUTIOUS

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - The Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor, Omar Ottley hereby informs the public of a lot of dust ahead.

People with pulmonary or eye conditions should take the necessary precautions. In distinguishing the possible symptoms from COVID-19, the latter has more systemic effects/symptoms; headaches, fever, sore muscles.

Dust symptoms are usually limited to eye irritation, dry cough, and shortness of breath especially in those who are susceptible. If in doubt, consult your General Practitioner.

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Repairs completed at Sr. Regina Primary School

SINT MAARTEN (SIMPSON BAY) - With the necessary operational repairs now complete, the students at Sr. Regina Primary School will finish off the 2020/2021 school year in refurbished buildings that are safer, watertight, and more hurricane resilient.

The works at Sr. Regina were part of the school repairs activities under Emergency Recovery Project I of the Sint Maarten Trust Fund, which is funded by the Government of the Netherlands, managed by the World Bank and implemented by the National Recovery Program Bureau (NRPB).

Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport (ECYS) Rodolphe Samuel and his supporting staff, representatives of the Ministry of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure (VROMI), NRPB Director Claret Connor, and representatives of Foundation Catholic Education St. Maarten (SKOS) toured the school premises on Friday afternoon, June 11, 2021.

During the tour, NRPB’s project team, representatives of contractor Windwards Roads B.V., and project supervisor ILACO Suriname N.V. performed a final check of the completed works, which included electrical, plumbing, and repairs to the roof, perimeter fence, shutters, doors, windows, gutters, and downspouts.

The tour was followed by an official handover ceremony, where Director Connor handed over the final documents to SKOS Facilities Manager Crenscencio Pers.

“Safe spaces to learn are vital for the education of our children,” said Director Connor. “With the completion of these necessary repairs at Sr. Regina, we have collectively taken another step in securing the betterment of future generations. The NRPB, through the Trust Fund, is delighted to have seen these works to completion.”

“The Ministry of VROMI has been involved with rendering advice to the Ministry of Education with regards to the technical aspects and assistance during the execution phase for the rehabilitation of the schools,” said VROMI Minister Egbert J. Doran. “With the restoration of the schools currently taking place, I am pleased to know that we’ve contributed to ensuring that the sanctuaries of the students and teachers are back in place. The students are the future generation of our beautiful island.”

“We are very appreciative and satisfied of the work done at the Sr. Regina School,” said SKOS Executive Director Lilia Aventurin-Hodge. “The working relationship was really fruitful with all the parties involved, and we are happy to return to the premises.”

A total of nineteen (19) schools were selected by the Ministry of ECYS for repairs under this project. The repairs were separated into three batches.

Sr. Regina was part of the first batch, along with St. Joseph Primary School and Leonald Conner Primary School. The repairs to Sr. Regina and Leonald Conner started in the first week of March 2021, while the work on St. Joseph started sometime later due to preparations for asbestos removal.

The works were scheduled to take approximately 100 days, provided there were no unanticipated issues during the repairs. The construction time per school depended on several factors, such as the school’s size, the extent of damages, and whether the premises were completely vacated during repairs.

The repairs to Leonald Conner and St. Joseph are expected to be completed within seven (7) weeks.

An Education Logistics Plan was developed with each individual school board and management team so that students’ education was impacted as little as possible during the works.

As part of Sr. Regina’s Education Logistics Plan, the school utilized parts of the campus that was not under construction, as well as the adjacent Simpson Bay Community Center. Access to the construction zone was restricted and contact between students and workers was prohibited. The NRPB will bear all of Sr. Regina’s costs in moving back to the upgraded building.

The NRPB would like to thank SKOS and the management and staff of Sr. Regina Primary School for their assistance and cooperation in executing these much-needed repairs. The NRPB also thanks parents and guardians for their understanding and patience.

Photo 2 1 regina frpg tue1506

NRPB Director Claret Connor (third from right) handing over the final documents to SKOS Facilities Manager Crenscencio Pers (fourth from right) in the presence ECYS Minister Rodolphe Samuel (second from right) and representatives of SKOS, ILACO, Windward Roads, VROMI, and NRPB’s project team.

 

 

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UPDATED: Second named storm of the season Bill forms

SINT MAARTEN/CARBBEAN – The NHC in its 11.00pm Monday evening forecast upgraded TD#2 to Tropical Storm Bill.  Winds are 45 miles per hour and extend up to 70 miles from the center of the storm.  Bill is expected to disspate in the coming day or two.

ARCHIVED - The second-named storm of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season could form Monday night according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC) out of Miami. Tropical Depression #2 (TD#2) is located near North Carolina, USA, and poses no threat to Sint Maarten.

TD#2 maximum sustained winds are near 35 miles per hour with higher gusts. The depression could continue to strengthen on Tuesday. The system is expected to dissipate on Wednesday.

Two other weather systems are being monitored by the NHC, an area of disorganized showers and thunderstorms in the Bay of Campeche – Gulf of Mexico – area, and a strong tropical wave located several hundred miles south of the Cabo Verde Islands in the central tropical Atlantic Ocean.

SOUALIGA NEWSDAY WEATHER WATCH

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Police urges graduates consider joining law enforcement

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The Police Force of Sint Maarten KPSM urges young people who have completed their education to consider serving their country by donning the blue uniform and tackling law and order as a police officer-in-training.

The call comes as students wrap up high school, college, and university studies and coincides with KPSM’s recruitment drive. This drive seeks to add at least 20 police officers-in-training to KPSM’s ranks thereby boosting the country’s safety and security.  

Expressing congratulating to all students, their parents and family, KPSM advises all to explore the wide range of opportunities the police force can offer and to consider this as a way to build an exciting, varied, and highly rewarding career.

No two police officers are the same. However, they all have something in common: a fierce commitment to integrity and securing the strong foundation of law enforcement.    Why think about joining KPSM? The reasons are many and includes: 

  • The job is never routine
  • Police officers help people make better choices
  • Police officers are problem solvers
  • Police officers trusted members of the community
  • The daily opportunity to save someone’s life

KPSM offers a myriad of possibilities to progress from patrol officer to detective, intelligence, or forensic specialist, and from detective to motorcycle officer. These are only a small part of that the organization offers to young men and women looking to serve the Sint Maarten community in a very hands-on and tangible way. Learn more about the recruitment drive, visit the Website:                            www.policesxm.sx

(KPSM)

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"Relationship with Saint Martin at an all-time low,” says the UD Party

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - In a press release, the United Democrats (UD) questions the seemingly nonexistence relationship between the Government of St. Maarten and the Collectivity of St. Martin.  

"Have the respective Ministers met with their French-Side counterparts since taking office over a year ago?" the party questions.  

The UD is on record for standing up for this relationship, as the party is convinced that the future of this island is one of togetherness, not separation.  

Other than lofty words at commemorative events, there is lately very little to show for the one-islandness many like to profess.  

“We are still in a pandemic as Covid-19 continues to affect us economically and has basically crippled our tourism product. With a little light on the horizon in terms of gradual reopening in several parts of the world, we need to ensure that collectively our island is once again poised to take part in the global recovery. “ 

The UD Party questions why the Tourism based Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the French Side has been shelved and from all appearances, each side of the island taking its own initiatives with little or no consultation with the other.  

Over one year in office and the counterparts of especially Tourism and Culture have yet to meet. “There is no excuse for this type of ‘good-weather’ relationship”. 

Stakeholders should be around the table constantly and on speed dial to creatively balance reviving our economy without risking lives due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.  

This government’s lack of leadership and internal cohesion on fundamental issues has left the wider population in the dark as to where exactly the government stands on matters such as cooperation with our French brothers and sisters.  

"We strongly advise all ministries to contact their respective counterparts on French St. Martin and re-establish the longstanding working relationship that has existed," UD concluded.

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